Why do men treat their partners like chattels or commodities?
It starts in childhood.
Having experienced at first hand the control and sometimes senseless violence that my uncles used against my aunts when I was growing up, and then seeing the same thing happening here in the Cook Islands and the at times weekly court reports of assaults on females, I have to wonder what is going on with our men.
Because it is men who overwhelmingly feature in the assaults on female statistics and it paints a grim picture of intergenerational abuse that is picked up by our children and carried into their adult lives.
By doing so they have learned that it is alright to beat your missus up and it is alright for females to accept their lot and their place in society.
Unfortunately, there are quite a number of women who believe that this is the natural order of things and continue to accept and stay in these abusive relationships.
I want to examine this more closely and I want to say as a result that there are men in our communities who have little or no ethics, morals, laws or lore when it comes to abusing or assaulting their partners or their children.
Let us examine these words: Morals – human behaviour that distinguishes between what is good and what is bad behaviour.
Ethics – social, religious or civil code of behaviour considered correct.
Lawful – Recognised as legal.
Lore - Traditional knowledge or wisdom handed down governing how we are expected to treat our women and our children.
The Bible tells us that Eve was born of man and therefore there are several interpretations as to what is meant by this arrangement. There are some interpretations with the Bible as reference, Ephesians 5-23 which says that “the husband is head of the wife”. And as a result, women have been put upon this earth to pander to and cater to and be subservient to the needs of men, mentally, physically, sexually and biologically.
Other interpretations state that men and women were to be seen as complementary, fulfilling an equal partnership, a relationship based on mutual benefit. It seems that many men in the Cook Islands subscribe to the first interpretation, if the court statistics are anything to go by.
You will note how abused women try to hide their injuries or concocted a story to explain away their cuts, bruises and black eyes. Or have hidden away from the light of day so that they don’t have to explain their injuries.
Or if they are working, have called in sick. They have even gone to the extent of trying to have criminal charges against their partners dropped or to find ways to get their abusers set free or sentences reduced, because “he loves me and I love him and it was out of character”.
You will also note how the lawyers for these abusers have also gone to extraordinary lengths to get their clients sentences reduced or set aside because, “Your honour, my client is a first time offender”. Well let me tell you that these abusers are not first timers, there is usually a pattern of disturbing behaviour, subtle or not that these abusers follow over days, weeks, months or years of subjecting their partners to emotional blackmail, abuse and mental control.
Belittling their partner, controlling whom she sees, whom she talks to and where she goes. Singling her out for treatment for some supposed transgression, with the standard of what is right or wrong being set by the abuser.
The disturbing thing about this is most abused believe that they are at fault, that they shouldn’t have angered their abuser and that they deserved to be abused, this is called the Stockholm syndrome. They have also tended to overlook such behaviour because they know that when he is good he can be an awesome husband, lover, provider and father.
On the other hand, when he is being an idiot he is at his most abusive and dangerous. This whole see-sawing behaviour is not the best situation for the woman and her children and especially for the children, as it sets a dangerous precedence for future poor antisocial behaviour. It is also disturbing that many in our community also believe this rubbish and openly support giving the missus or the children the bash to show who is the boss.
The natural thing for most people to say is, “If I was a woman I would get out of that violent and toxic relationship. Who in their right mind would stay in such an abusive relationship?”
Unfortunately, those words are too easy to say, because when you are in a highly abusive relationship there are several factors that people are not thinking about when they make those well-intentioned remarks.
If there are children from this relationship, they are the priority for the woman. They depend on her for love and her nurturing behaviour, and it is this vulnerability that prevents the woman from leaving.
If the abuse has been ongoing for some time, the woman is usually mentally and physically drained and has feelings of inadequacy, worthlessness and insecurity coupled with fear of the man.
If the man is the sole breadwinner, then her access to disposable income is severely compromised. He has sexual access to her body whether she wills it or not and this is an act of power not of love or intimacy.
The only difference between this man and a rapist, is that the current law is an ass and a husband cannot be charged for having unwanted sex with his spouse (read that as, “He cannot be charged with rape at present”). Thus women will stay in an abusive relationship because this is what they know and any change in that routine is about facing the unknown, and they may not have the mental fortitude to make that change.
It would take a catalyst of major proportions for a woman to leave the relationship because we are instilled in the “till death do us part” mantra and no matter what, you stay in the relationship because that is what the family and society expects, even at the expense of one’s sanity and even at the expense of one’s life, which is an all too familiar situation for those who have lost loved ones in that situation recently.
Where does this all start?
Well there is only one place it can possibly start and it is in the home, where children are exposed to this type of senseless violence and abuse.
Children first learn that this is how you sort out problematic relationships as they grow to adulthood. Domestic violence, child and sexual abuse, and common assault are some of the things our society has to deal with because of what happens in some of our homes. And once again, we seem powerless to do anything about it.
We have plenty of ambulances sitting at the bottom of the cliff to pick up the pieces, but when you look to the top of the cliff, it seems pretty bare.
Parental relationships are under close scrutiny from their children consciously or subconsciously and children are learning bad habits and poor behaviours off their parents. This is especially so when the father is abusing his wife.
When negative parental stimuli become the norm, the child soon learns what the father deems as good or bad behaviour even if this so-called good behaviour is not what society deems acceptable. Avoidance of father’s displeasure and pain and suffering is the driving force. “If I am good I won’t suffer any consequences even if I believe that what he is doing to me doesn’t seem right.”
This is also the situation where some boys subconsciously blame the mother for the father’s abuse and he can take this attitude and behaviour into his adult life and it becomes the norm or the standard by which he will operate.
He will use these same responses on his own children and partner and this can escalate into domestic violence or child abuse when he doesn’t get his own way. His father was the role model, so he must be right. Any negative response to a demand or order from the father to their child or their partner can be met with abuse, physical assault and in some cases violence. He takes a negative response from his child or partner as wilful disobedience.
He can get very defensive, which can quickly escalate into violence or abuse when alcohol or mood-altering drugs have been consumed. This is why in many instances relationships can end, with the woman leaving the relationship any way they can.
They are fed up and this constant battering of their senses pushes them over the edge when an opportunity to leave is available they take it. They want distance from the controlling partner after putting up with years of physical and emotional abuse.
However, it is unfortunate that if both men and women do not learn from this experience and sort out what is truly right or wrong, they will continue the same mistakes in the future.